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Jahlil Okafor Seeks To Revive Career With Pelicans After Unlikely Inspiration

Jahlil Okafor, Kevin Love, Pelicans

While the Philadelphia 76ers continue to ride the wave of The Process and its first playoff appearance to a prosperous future, Jahlil Okafor–Sam Hinkie’s final lottery pick–is struggling to find his place in the NBA.

Okafor entered the league as a talented big man in the mold of the traditional post scoring center, averaging 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game on a talent depleted Sixers team as a rookie.

Injuries cut his season short and, once Joel Embiid emerged, Okafor struggled to find a place back in Philadelphia’s rotation and relevance in the league. Last season, the Sixers traded Okafor to the Brooklyn Nets, where he appeared in just 26 uninspiring games.

Now on a two-year contract with the New Orleans Pelicans (only $50,000 is guaranteed), Okafor spent the summer transforming his body and, more importantly, his mind.

My summer of transformation: First off I want to thank @idanwan & @dzandertraining for getting after it with me the moment my season ended. Grateful to have two of the best in their respective fields work with me all summer. Although the physical changes in this photo are evident, their has been extreme growth unbenounced to the eye. I’ve learned how to identify and manage different stressors such as anxiety. Learning how to identify certain stressors has also allowed me to over come them. Often times because of my size and profession people may view me in a certain way, but in reality I deal with the same struggles as countless others. Mental health awareness is a cause I will fight for the rest of my life and if you’re struggling today don’t be afraid to speak with someone and seek help. I would like to thank @kevinlove and the @playerstribune for helping me identify my feelings and informing me what I was dealing with was in fact normal. 6 weeks left in the off season; with a lot more work to do!

A post shared by Jahlil Okafor (@jah8) on

“I would like to thank Kevin Love for helping me identify my feelings and informing me what I was dealing with was, in fact, normal.”

The physical transformation is apparent. Okafor looks leaner with greater muscle definition, which should help with explosiveness and injury prevention. More importantly, he appears to have addressed some mental health issues.

Kevin Love helped to redefine the NBA as one of its elite shooting and playmaking power forwards. Love, and DeMar DeRozan, opening up about depression last season appears to be changing the league for the better, too.

There remains some elite talent in Okafor’s large frame. Playing next to Anthony Davis, whose shooting and elite defense can help to mask Okafor’s own deficiencies, just might be the opportunity Okafor needs to revitalize his career. He may have found the right fit in New Orleans but, more importantly, it appears his body and mind are in the right place.